Almost lost among the silliness of April Fool’s Day this week was a milestone that marked the creation of one of the best things that ever happened to the Navy. On April 1, 1893, the rank of Chief Petty Officer was announced, and the Navy was never the same again.
It was better.
There is not an officer or Sailor alive today who cannot name at least one Chief Petty Officer who had a dramatic impact on his or her life. Chiefs have the unique ability to understand the big picture while at the same time empathizing with the men and women impacted at the deck plate level.
Behind closed doors the Chiefs bluster and argue and try to reason with the chain of command in order to accomplish the mission the right way, while at the same time protecting those who will have to carry out the orders. When the door finally opens, though, the Chiefs announce the decision – whether they believe it is the right one or not – as if it were their own.
Personally, I was blessed to have served with several Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs who shepherded me through my career – from the days of being a green Ensign to the final days in uniform. They trained me to be a sailor, they taught me how to lead, and they counseled me when I was about to make a mistake. And I suspect my experience is no different than most.
They are masters of their respective trades, insightful counselors to young and old, and make up the most cohesive element of the Navy. It was an honor to learn from them, and an honor to serve alongside them.
The Chief. Nothing more needs to be said.